The Oil Well you can Keep in your Pants

US WinterAlthough the dead of winter is safely behind us, it is still looking pretty cold out on that North American weather map. Austin, Texas recently came close to freezing at night, although that temperature would have seemed warm to people from North Dakota, where it was -30C(-21F). My part of Colorado is going to reach a reasonable high of 54F today, which seems warm for January to me because I grew up in Canada.. but you can make a Hawaiian pass out just by mentioning a temperature like that in conversation.

What is it that allows people to survive in such varied temperatures? And what is it that causes some to whine and spend money in response to  cold temperatures, even while the Mustachians thrive and embrace the seasons?

In a word, it’s “Clothes”.

Although not well known to contemporary American society,  “Clothes” aren’t just for showing off to your friends and coworkers. You can also get special ones that allow your body to remain comfortable and active, even when the ambient air is outside of the 72-76F range!

I have been reminded of the power of clothes several times recently, and also reminded that few people modern people understand this power. In a radio interview, an MMM reader and I were explaining the concept of winter bicycling to the show’s host. She seemed perplexed at the concept:

“Umm.. this morning, it was 21 degrees at my house here in Virginia! How are you going to bike through that? Especially in a skirt and panty hose?”

We patiently explained that with the aid of “Clothes”, we have both had no difficulty riding our bikes for dozens of miles, even in temperatures far below 21F. Even my six-year-old son rides his bike in those conditions. And on top of that, it turns out that these Clothes things are interchangeable – you can put on one set for winter cycling, and have a second set waiting underneath with your office costume! It is miraculous, convenient, and I wish everyone knew about it.

But today I’ve got an even more general-purpose clothing tip to share with the world, which could save us billions of dollars collectively. Are you ready for it? Because if you don’t know about this already, it will change your life:

Long Underwear


MMM takes a break during a day of winter construction work to show his secret warmth weapon.

Now sure, you already knew of the existence of this piece of clothing, and maybe you’ve even used it once or twice. But have you tried wearing it all day, every day, during the dead of winter?

The results may amaze you. Your legs have a lot of surface area, so they can lose a lot of heat to the surrounding environment. And a pair of jeans or work pants does not provide much insulation. So by adding these things to your wardrobe when you are out on the town, you’ll feel like you have taken an immediate jump about two states South of wherever you live. Walking outside is comfortable, biking is comfortable, and the temptation to wuss out and use your car to get to that errand only 2 miles away is drastically reduced. So you can cut down your driving by 10 miles a week, even while you increase your walking, running, and biking by the same amount. Score #1.

But there’s more. When you get home, don’t go taking those things off and changing back into your swimwear. Leave them on! Suddenly, you will notice that your house is a little stuffy at the 70 degrees you’ve been running, and you need to turn down the heat (the MMM household is a more comfortable 67 during the day, 62 at night). You notice that your heating bill drops by about 10%. Score #2!

Meanwhile, something happens in the synergy department: you’ve moved your house and the outdoors closer to the same temperature. This means that flowing between the two environments now happens more seamlessly. Your exposed skin is already accustomed to a cooler house, and your legs are already snug in their two layers. It is easy to step outside for a walk, with very little fuss. So you do it more often. Score #3.

If you combine the 1.3 gallons of gas saved each month, with about 1,000,000 BTUs per month less heat that you’ll need to pump into your house throughout the winter, you can understand how I think of my own long underwear as a productive oil well that I get to keep right in my pants. What other $10.00 garment could produce such incredible investment returns?

To top off this dose of winter inspiration, I’d like to share a short piece written by an Alaskan Mustachian, who wrote in to teach us Southerners how easy we all have it, thus we should all get outside and leave the car behind:

Out in the Cold

by Sister X

MMM advocates biking year-round but for many of us junior ‘Stachians, that sounds pretty extreme.  When the weather is warm and it seems to always be sunny it’s easy enough to do.  But how do you get out and about when the world turns cold and dark?  The temptation to say, “Fuck it, I’m driving today!” can be pretty powerful.  I know, and I completely sympathize.

However, I don’t let that stop me.  I live in Fairbanks, Alaska, and I’m a year-round bicyclist/pedestrian.*  No matter what the weather is like (including whiteouts and an ice storm during which people were seen ice skating on the sidewalks…I was a bit late to work that day) and through all temperatures (down to about -55 F).  I’ve been doing this for about three years so I really do understand the dark (at our darkest we get about an hour of full sun plus another three hours of dawn/dusk) and the cold, and what it takes to pull yourself out of bed every morning knowing that you’re going to be trekking through harsh conditions.  Training your mind is the hardest part and, trust me, it gets easier once you make it part of your routine.  (I had no choice in the beginning, which simplified things very much for me.)  However, the cold is not to be underestimated, especially if you’re not used to it.  People who go from warm house to warm car to warm office tend to feel the cold more than I do.  MMM previously talked about acclimation and how important it is, but there are other things you’ll probably need to know before you set out into the cold and dark.

A few important facts:

Ladies, we feel the cold in our extremities before men do.  It’s far more important for us to keep our feet and hands warm because we’re more prone to frostbite.  When the temperature drops our warm blood is redirected to our core faster than men’s, leaving our hands and feet feeling the cold.  (It’s suspected that this is meant to protect any potential offspring in utero.)  On the plus side, men will get (and die of) hypothermia before us, so it’s a trade-off.
People who are unused to the cold are more likely to get hypothermia.  It’s a sad fact that homeless people in California die more frequently of cold-related conditions than homeless people in cold areas do.  Part of this is because of acclimation, and part of it is because people in cold areas know better what to do to stay warm.  (And yes, that does make me feel a bit like I’m preaching to the choir.)  If you’re not used to being in the cold for any length of time, start slowly.

It is entirely possible to frostbite your lungs.  Yes, your lungs, and your throat, and your mouth.  If it seems painful to breathe because of the cold, you’re damaging your lungs.  Wrapping something, like a scarf or cowl, around your face is the easiest way to avoid this.  Any temperature below zero, I automatically put something around my face. My brother hates scarves but swears by a special face mask he bought, meant for working in cold weather.  Find what works best for you, but be sure to have something to protect your lungs and throat.

So here are my top tips for non-car commutes in the winter.  The first category is gear:

1. Always dress in layers.  Even on the coldest days I will often find myself getting too warm when I walk (uphill) to work.  Since sweating will only cause me to be cold later, I do my best to avoid it.  Peeling off a layer or two as I walk to vent heat helps.  Also, since no one layer can prepare you for everything it helps to have a variety.  Fleece is fabulous for staying warm, not so good at blocking the wind.  But if you put a light windbreaker over your fleece you get the protection of both.  Additionally, you have a layer you can take off if it’s unnecessary.

2. Bring more clothes than you think you’ll need, especially if your area is prone to rapid temperature swings.  It’s not unusual for my area to go from -20F (-29C) one day to +20F (-6C) the next.  There was one day last winter when it was a balmy -10F (-23C) when I started out in the morning, but -40 when I walked home, and still dropping.  Whenever I’m inclined to leave my parka at home, I think of that day and how grateful I was that I’d brought it out of habit.  In other areas, blizzards might suddenly appear or the wind could pick up.  It pays to be prepared.
Extra clothing doesn’t mean that you have to cart around a suitcase full of extra gear.  I knitted some arm warmers for myself which go up to my elbows and can be used as extra sleeves.  They’re easy enough to tuck into my purse but warm enough to make a real difference in how warm my hands and arms are if the temperature drops. I also keep an extra sweater in a drawer at work, just in case.

3. Bring a flashlight, wear a headlamp, or have some other source of light.  When the weather is inclement there could be power outages.  You don’t want to find yourself halfway to your destination when all the streetlamps shut off.  Also, these can be used to make you visible to cars.
Since batteries don’t do so well in the cold, test them frequently, replace or recharge as necessary, and consider getting a flashlight which doesn’t require batteries.  There are several types which generate power from things such as hand cranks.

4. Figure out what gear you actually need and will use.  For my daily commute, I never wear snowpants.  I find them to be too warm, too bulky, and too awkward.  It’s much easier for me to wear long underwear or leggings under my pants.  What gear is best suited to your climate, and what will you actually wear?

5. Once you’ve identified what gear you need, then you can figure out where it pays to buy quality and where it doesn’t.  My long underwear are hand-me-downs from my parents, who no longer live here.  They’re from the 70’s.  But who cares?  They’re still in good shape, and no one but my husband will ever see them.  Raid family closets, check the thrift store, whatever, just don’t spend a lot of money on the things which don’t matter.
However, my parka was quite expensive and I regularly receive good wool socks as Christmas presents.  (My favorite brands are SmartWool and Darn Tough.  They can be found at a discount through Sierra Trading Post or Steep and Cheap.**)  With good quality, warm socks it doesn’t matter how cheap my shoes or boots are.  I still usually wear two pairs of socks.  
For bicyclists, you might find that some special gear is worth it and some isn’t.  The one product I would recommend at least trying out are the special over-the-handlebar mittens.  They attach to your bike and protect your hands from the wind and cold.  (I’m sorry, I don’t know the brand, but I see them all the time around here.)

6. I find ice to be a challenge, and a good workout.  It gives my fast-twitch and stabilizing muscles a chance to show their worth in keeping me steady.  However, I’m young and in good condition.  Not everyone is.  If you’re older, unused to walking on ice, or have any reason why a fall would be bad, ice cleats are your friend.  There are some which are made to slip over regular shoes to give you traction when it’s needed.  I know my work gives them out for free since slipping on the ice is the number one cause of injury among our staff.  Others in icy areas might see if their businesses do the same in an effort to promote workplace health and safety.  If not, they can be found online.

7. It helps to be crafty, or know someone who is.  You can make specialty items for yourself very cheaply and know that you’re getting exactly what you want.  In addition to arm warmers for myself and my husband, I’ve also made a cowl for myself for wintertime running.  This way I don’t have to bother with a scarf but I do have something to pull over my nose and mouth to keep me warm.  I’ve also made socks out of sweater weight yarn and they are absolutely the best thing I’ve got for days when it’s -40 and colder.

So that pretty much covers anything I’ve found to properly outfit a person to deal with the cold and dark.  Don’t think of it as a must-have list, think of it as a starting point for what YOU might need.  I know others who live near me, make a similar trek as mine, and have different needs than I do.  I have a friend who wears one of those bright orange safety vests for the two roads he crosses.  I find that keeping a flashlight in my bag and wearing bright colors makes me feel safe enough.  So do what will work best for you.
On to the second category, generally good ideas for dealing with the cold:

1. Be in shape.  This sounds ridiculous at first, but it really is important.  If you’re thinking, “But fat insulates!” get that thought out of your head right now.  It’s true, but it’s not what will keep you the warmest.  Muscles produce heat and that’s what you want.  I’m not telling you to suddenly become a body builder, but having a decent muscle-to-fat ratio in your body will do more to keep you warm than excess body fat will.  As long as you’re not underweight you’ll have enough fat to insulate yourself properly.

2. Drink something hot when you get to your destination.  As soon as I get to work in the morning I start making a big pot of tea in the coffee maker.  I know someone who prefers to heat up a mug of plain water in the microwave.  Whatever you prefer, make it hot.  This will help your body to regulate its temperature back to normal.

3. Change your clothes!  This isn’t just good advice for sweaty summer biking clothes.   As soon as I get home on cold winter nights I change out of my work clothes and into something comfy and warm.  Your outside clothes will carry the cold with you, whereas clothes from your closet have been in your warm house all day.

4. Use electric blankets and heating pads sparingly.  The only days on which I use our electric blanket are when it’s -40 or colder, and then only for as long as it takes to get my coldest parts warming up.  Maybe ten minutes?  It’s much more effective to exercise right after I get home, or to do chores which keep me moving, than it is to lie passively under a blanket, even a heated one.***  So get up and move around already.  Do burpees, or pushups, if you really want to warm up.

5. A warm shower or bath when you’re truly, bone-chillingly cold can help you to warm up.  HOWEVER, hot water on cold skin is extremely painful.  It’s best to warm up a little bit with other means (like by moving around and drinking something hot) a little bit before you get in the water.  When you do, start very slowly, with only lukewarm water.  As your body warms up you can slowly heat the water up.

6. Always be alert.  This is probably the hardest recommendation I have made or will make.  If you’re like me, you’re both easily distracted and often get caught up in your own thoughts.  This has led to some near-misses for me, including but not limited to animals (I was nearly trampled by an angry mother moose last winter) and cars.  For animals, learn what potential predators are in your area and how to read their body language, even if it’s no more exotic than your neighbor’s dog. For cars, I’ve found that drivers don’t expect to see pedestrians and bicyclists even in the best, most perfect summery conditions.  How much less, then, do they expect to see pedestrians and bicyclists in the winter?  It’s a sad fact that until we get more people out of their cars, the burden of paying attention is on the pedestrian.

7. Never, ever jaywalk.  All vehicles come to a complete stop at every sign, right?  Right?  I’m hoping my sarcasm is coming through here because, seriously, jaywalking is often the smart choice.  Cars and trucks will most likely not stop for you at crosswalks.  They don’t think they have to and you can be standing there for minutes waiting for a chance to cross.  In the cold, standing still for that long can be dangerous.  Jaywalking allows you to find a large enough break in traffic to cross the road at a comfortable pace, rather than trying to run across ice and snow.
The corners of intersections, where the snow has been packed smooth by all the cars, is also frequently one of the iciest parts of the road.  Be especially careful as you cross roads not to slip, and to make yourself visible to all the drivers.  Be a nuisance!  At least that way they’ll pay attention to you.

8. If you’re having trouble staying motivated, it really helps to think about what you like about your area.  You moved there for a reason, and chances are you get to see and notice things which most people don’t.  For me, it helps that even in the depths of winter Fairbanks is gorgeous.  I get to see the bright stars and even the aurora borealis occasionally on my walks.  People in cars don’t get a chance to see the views I do because they’re too concerned with watching traffic and keeping their vehicles on the road.

A little womanly advice:

1. You can do what you want, of course, but I’ve made it a policy never to pay attention to men yelling and honking from their cars.  If they’re going to treat me like a zoo animal just for walking, they don’t deserve acknowledgement.  Of course, in a small town like mine this has led to some hilarity as I’ve accidentally ignored friends and even my father-in-law as they tried to say a friendly hello in passing.

2. Acknowledge those you pass and keep your head up.  You’re less likely to be an appealing victim if you’re alert to the world and to those around you.  Among the people I pass regularly we generally nod and say hello, even though we don’t know each other’s names.


Sister X, walking home at about -45F

*In the winter I switch to walking because ice + wheels + me makes an emergency-room-worthy combination.  Trust me.  Also, because I don’t like riding my bike when everything about it freezes.  However, I bike pretty much everywhere in the summer.

**I have no affiliation with any of these companies.
***I would add “snuggle with someone” to this list, but my husband has told me that snuggling with me when I get home is like cuddling up to a corpse, involves lots of swearing, and he refuses to do it anymore.  Maybe best saved for staying warm, rather than getting warm, unless it truly becomes necessary.  


Further Reading: I later learned that Low-Tech Magazine had written a similar perspective on warm clothing. Better content than my article above because of the added science. Better pictures too. But not as good a title.


  • Dee February 1, 2013, 3:45 pm

    Although certain family members make fun of it, I swear by my fleece hat indoors…but then we keep the winter thermostat between 55 (night) and 64 (day).

    • August West February 1, 2013, 5:39 pm

      This is the first winter we have turned the thermostat down to 67 and we have been wearing hats part of the time – I do especially if I keep going back and forth between the garage and the house. It is great – like slippers for your head?

      • Shelby Kauth December 30, 2014, 1:21 am

        I have some serious allergies that make my skin itch if exposed to…anything, be it Sun, plants, or smog. Since I was little, I’ve had to wear long sleeves. And since puberty, those thin t-shirts have made me self conscious, so I’ve had to wear two shirts(and my bra) and long pants and long socks in every environment ever for years. Unless I want my skin to turn red and itchy.
        But the coldest winter I’ve had (been in lower Michigan since 2002) hasn’t been cold enough to make me wear Carhartt over my indoor clothes for more than five minutes of shoveling. Leggings and a long skirt are more effective than snow pants for all three categories of warmth, dryness, and mobility.

    • Sara February 1, 2013, 7:12 pm

      I love wearing a hat indoors because it really helps me keep the house temperature low. And for outdoors, not all hats are created equal. My favorite was a wool hat with a fleece lining. I could walk outside all winter in that hat. I used to take it camping as well as I would need a warm head on colder nights. Unfortunately I lost it and haven’t found one as good since. Also, the quality of sweaters varies a great deal. Here again I prefer a wool sweater. Oh, yeah, wool socks too!

    • TicoHombre @ Pay Off My Rentals February 2, 2013, 5:00 pm


      I won’t be uncomfortable in my own home. I simply refuse to allow blizzard conditions in my living room.

      If I have to live that way….fine. But I can’t get on board with those whose think that dealing with extreme cold in their own house is a virtue.

      Nope. I’ll pay the heating bill.

      • Charles Ko February 3, 2013, 7:35 am

        I wear clothes. And the long underwear. It’s very comfortable – a fleece layer over a thermal plus long underwear. Our thermostat is set to 58-62 degrees constantly.

        People at work are always in awe, but it’s just a matter of habit. With just one extra layer on top and one extra layer on the bottom, you can save so much on the heating bill.

        (Plus you need those layers anyway when you walk outside, so might as well.)

      • Mr. Money Mustache February 3, 2013, 8:48 am

        Ahh, finally a complainypants shows up! We were just talking about you elsewhere in this very comment section.

        • Anna February 19, 2013, 4:10 pm

          I have lived in Utah most of my life and this year is the first year I’ve ever worn long underwear as part of my regular outfit (before I’d only worn it sledding or something) I am soooo much warmer, in the house and outside. I’m a bit of an evangelist now telling everyone I know to wear long underwear (awkward?!). We need to get some for my husband now since I’m often hot and he doesn’t want to turn the heater down.

          It helps more than people think.

      • T Schmidt December 10, 2013, 6:57 pm

        See I am sort of in this camp too, although it really does become about acclimation. The other thing is I work at home. If you work outside the home and if you are good about setting your programmable thermostat (you do have one, right?), then you can “afford” to run your heat up.

        I used to keep my house at 72 in the winter but I really am enjoying keeping it low these days when it is just me there (I have my son some days). I actually feel more alert and actually I stay warmer! My hands and feet are warmer even though I am wearing the same socks and no gloves. I should have realized this from my years of bike racing; that if your core is warm you don’t need as much on the extremities.

        This may be counter intuitive but if you aren’t wearing much you are dependent on the furnace to keep you warm, but if you wear some pajama bottoms and a sweater suddenly you are now keeping yourself warm. And isn’t self reliance a mustachian virtue?

    • Jackie February 3, 2013, 8:23 am

      I set it at 55 at night; 68 when we are at home during the day. I swear by the programmable thermastat. If your utility makes available your smart meter readings, like APS in Arizona, you can get some very good daily detail on how you are managing your use.

      • PFgal February 10, 2013, 7:32 pm

        There is a service in MA that will provide these for free. If you live in MA, call your local utility company and they can give you the details. You’ll also get free cfls and all sorts of useful information about insulation and such.

    • David April 4, 2016, 6:06 am

      Wearing a hat when to bed lets me sleep comfortably while turning the thermostat even lower, until the hat falls off my head. This winter I found something that works better – fleece pillowcases. It’s a little winter luxury that pays for itself. The best part is where I found them. They were in the recycling building at my town transfer station. Even though I found them for free they would be worth the full retail price.

  • Winter teeshirts February 1, 2013, 3:50 pm

    This is great, I am wearing long underwear right now. Feels like a tropical paradise every day!

    My roommates complain about how cold I keep the house…. while they are wearing tee shirts and shorts. Absurd.

    • Mrs. Pop @ Planting Our Pennies February 1, 2013, 5:19 pm

      I always tell Mr. PoP he’s not allowed to say it’s cold in the house unless he has socks and a sweater on at least. Adding those two things stops pretty much all complaints and we haven’t had to use the heat yet this year. Even last night when it got down to 44 F! (We live in S. FL and those lows aren’t seen all that often around here.)

      But MMM, I would have appreciated you publishing this 24 hours earlier… because this tip: “HOWEVER, hot water on cold skin is extremely painful” is something I re-learned all too acutely this morning after running 10 miles in 44 degrees and hopping straight into the shower to warm up my frozen fingers. =) Ah well.

      • Matt_G February 1, 2013, 6:27 pm

        44 degrees…. pfffffft

  • Chen Zhaowei February 1, 2013, 3:51 pm

    That is pretty badass. I think the main deterrents for me are lack of long underwear, not wearing a hat, and not having good socks. Although I think the socks are solid advance that I never thought about. My feet are still freezing from being outside less than 15 minutes.

  • jlcollinsnh February 1, 2013, 3:53 pm

    My mother used to say: “Sweaters are cheaper than heating oil.” and that’s back when oil was cheap! words to live by.

    We keep our house at 50 at night and, softies that we are in our old age, 60-65 during the day. Mom would have sneered at the indulgence.

    problem is, of course, if you go anywhere other than my house dressed for winter you’ll be roasted alive.

    The problem with long underwear, and I love it, is that when visiting someone else’s house or some office or store or whatever you can’t strip down far enough.

    So now, for those occasions, I wear light weight clothes as the first layer…

    • Mr. Money Mustache February 1, 2013, 4:00 pm

      I agree with the roasting alive – it happens to me especially in the grocery store, since I dress up warm to bike there, then build up heat from the cycling.

      To compensate, I enjoy stripping down to a t-shirt while still outside to dump the extra heat (leaving my warm stuff in the bike trailer). Then I get to do my shopping all casual-style in t-shirt and jeans, while the car-driving customers are stuck in coats.

      • Kenoryn February 1, 2013, 9:59 pm

        I’m totally OK with the heat, but I hate the reverse you get in the summer, where you walk to the grocery store enjoying the beautiful weather but have to bring a winter sweater with you so you don’t freeze while you’re shopping.

        • DaveT February 2, 2013, 11:53 am

          Agreed! It always seems like such a huge waste when I walk into a building in the summer and the temperature is 65 F. Another thing that’s crazy I’ve noticed certain stores like King Soopers essentially leave their doors open constantly basically dumping cold air outside 24/7.

          • Mr. Money Mustache February 2, 2013, 2:43 pm

            I think that King Soopers design isn’t as bad as it looks – some stores use an ‘air curtain’ of circulating air to limit cold drafts flowing in.. and most grocery stores have enough “free” heat (from the waste heat from all of those massive electric freezers/fridges) such that it heats the building and still ends up being too much even in winter.

            I’m definitely with you on the cold buildings in the summer though. On my recent trip to Hawaii, the only time I was uncomfortably cold was in public buses and buildings. The outdoor temperature is generally perfect, while building interiors are chilled to the point of needing long pants and shirts. All with 35C/kwh electricity made from imported oil!

            • Mr 1500 February 3, 2013, 7:03 am

              I had never seen an air curtain before moving to Colorado and they are neat. For those of you who have never seen one, there are fans above the entry that blow air down. Directly below on the ground is a grill that pulls the air in. So, you have a wall of moving air. The grocery store has this thing on all year round.

              I always wondered if this is more efficient than automatic doors.

            • Matt November 19, 2014, 2:40 pm

              Air curtains are handy, we normally use them in building loading docks or doors which will be opened to move large objects because they will frequently be open for long periods of time out of necessity. The air curtain greatly reduces the conditioned air from the building escaping or outside air being blown in. They can certainly and frequently are paired with automatic doors. The reason you dont see them very often is you can more cheaply and effectively get the same effect if you have two widely seperated pairs of doors with a stagnant air region between them (this doesnt work for loading large equipment but it works for most enterances)

        • David April 2, 2016, 6:02 am

          Grocery stores are not kept cool all summer for the comfort of the employees and customers. They are kept cool because it helps maintain the quality of the food on the shelves. The compressors for refrigeration make a lot of heat. My local IGA is built with the compressors in an insulated room on an outside wall. In the summer the heat is vented outside. In winter it is vented through ductwork to help heat the store.

      • Carl41 February 2, 2013, 6:22 am

        Yes I agree! Why are the shops and shopping centres heated at all?
        Here in Germany we enjoy winter temps of just below freezing. A little warmer and its wet and unpleasant.. But we need long-johns, gloves hats etc. My Mum used to say only a fool is cold.
        But once we get inside a shop I can’t wait to leave.
        Many many moons ago I had a Saturday job in a shop in England. There was NO heating at all. The first two hours we were cold (but dressed warmly) after that the shop lights and the customer’s warmth was more than adequate.
        If the shop assistants wore more than t shirts, the customers might stay longer- but that isnt at all Mustachion!

        • jlcollinsnh February 2, 2013, 9:26 am

          I like you mum’s comment. Mine used to say, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only wrong clothes.”

    • Mrs. Pop @ Planting Our Pennies February 1, 2013, 5:24 pm

      What about silk long underwear? I had some from REI (I think?) that were indispensable during my foray to the snowy north for college. The silk was nice and insulating enough for walking around, but comfortable and not-roasty so that I could leave it on even in academic buildings that had over-active radiators.

      • jlcollinsnh February 1, 2013, 6:03 pm

        I l-o-v-e silk long underwear! there, my secret is out.

        great for travel as it weighs nothing and takes up little room.

        but, it’s not very durable in my experience.

    • anotherengineer February 1, 2013, 6:20 pm

      Well said. As another Alaskan (though in tropical Anchorage), I wear long underwear for my bike/walk/bus to work under my dress pants whenever it is below 10F or so. I’ve found that both silk and merino long underwear keep me warm outside and tolerable inside, even when acclimated to colder temps. Merino is warmer and longer lasting. Biking tends to wear the crotch out of silkies.

      In slightly more temperate Madison, WI I biked all winter with just a rain jacket, but with thick socks, quality gloves, and a balaclava to keep the extremities warm. Oh, and those handlebars gloves are called pogies.

      • Sister X February 4, 2013, 11:06 am

        Woo! Another fellow Alaskan! Are you as shocked as I am by the number of people in this state who dress like morons and then complain CONSTANTLY about the cold? Drives me freaking nuts.

        • Ashley February 8, 2013, 5:38 pm

          @Sister X:

          Not sure if this is on topic, but I’m wondering if you have any boot recommendations. I have a three mile daily commute and, like you, I prefer to walk in the winter. My current boots have no tread and the heels are too high, which makes walking in snow difficult!

          Thanks! I really enjoyed the article!

          • Sister X February 19, 2013, 11:16 am

            I managed to find some Columbia boots (on sale for $40!) and those are my go-to boots for winter. The tread is pretty fantastic. Around here we also have muk-luks, which are based on Native Alaskan footwear with soft hide soles which actually make for a slip-proof walk.
            When buying boots look for either deep tread or really soft rubber, preferably a combination. Rubber will freeze if it gets cold enough but the softer rubbers still maintain a grip on the ice.
            Stay away from anything Dansko, even their winter line, unless you want to be skating to work! I love my Danskos, but I keep them in my desk at work rather than risking my neck walking in them. Also, this way I don’t have to be tromping around in my boots all day.

          • Trifele April 20, 2014, 4:13 am

            This is a super late reply, but I second the comment about mukluks. I have a pair of Neos mukluks (lightweight knee high overshoes) that are 20 years old and still going strong. These are a high-tech take on traditional mukluks. They are warm, waterproof, have a fantastic tread and are great on ice. They were expensive ($150), but worth absolutely every penny.

        • Yukon Marianne May 23, 2014, 9:29 pm

          Late to the party but I wanted to add, I am keeping an eye out for decent ski goggles for -25 or colder commutes, the first couple minutes of eye watering cold are uncomfortable and I’ve decided it’s worth the (used) investment for those weeks. Also you can get your bike winterised so it handles better, although def. not worth it if you feel you might bail on ice!

  • Johnny Moneyseed February 1, 2013, 3:55 pm

    In the Moneyseed household we already keep our thermostat at 67 during the awake hours, and 62 after 10pm sans long underwear. We could probably kick the thermostat down a notch or two if we embraced this concept though. Thanks for sharing!

    • Ross February 1, 2013, 8:17 pm

      Yea, I’ve never thought to wear long underwear indoors. Definitely an energy saving opportunity. I just need to get my roommate on board…

  • Tara February 1, 2013, 4:01 pm

    Awesome article! There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing. I love my long underwear, fleece tops, and wooly socks. In Montreal, it gets plenty cold and icy, so I have ice cleats for those days when the sidewalks are skating rinks. A good balaclava is also great for long walks/rides out in freezing weather.

    We set the thermostat to 15 at night and 18 during the day. Warmer than I would prefer, but my SO complains too loudly if I turn it lower.

    • Carl February 3, 2013, 7:17 pm

      Tara – At first I thought you were really badass, but then I figured you’re taking Celsius.

  • Jamesqf February 1, 2013, 4:14 pm

    Forget flashlights, they’re old tech. Headlamps keep your hands free, put light where you want it, and last for many hours on a charge. Plus cross-country skiing with one in lightly falling powder is something else.

    Also, if your batteries fail because of cold, take two, and keep one under your arm, or tucked under your waist. I’ve never had a problem with the rechargable NiMH batteries I use in the headlamp (it doesn’t get really cold hereabouts, maybe only 10F), but it works with the Lion batteries in cell phones & cameras.

    • Sister X February 4, 2013, 11:09 am

      Thanks! I originally wrote this in November and I didn’t have a headlamp. Then we went to my husband’s company’s Christmas party and got one as a gift from them. :) I’m loving it, especially when I go running.

    • David April 2, 2016, 6:24 am

      The best headlamps for hours in the cold have remote battery packs that can be tucked inside your jacket. The batteries stay warm and there is less weight on your head. When I worked as a snowmaker I went through several headlamps before finding one I liked. I stuck with one that used four “C” cells. Rechargeable Nicad batteries could last two nights on a charge with a halogen bulb that outperformed every other headlamp on the mountain. Unfortunatly, I had to retire that lamp because replacement bulbs are no longer available. LED technology made them obsolete. I haven’t found a replacement that makes as much light.

  • Mr 1500 February 1, 2013, 4:18 pm

    I love the variety! Where else can I read about Pex, peak oil, the 4% rule and underwear. Great stuff.

    Think Different indeed.

  • RubeRad February 1, 2013, 4:32 pm

    In the winter I switch to walking because ice + wheels + me makes an emergency-room-worthy combination.

    Have you ever tried studded tires? They are made specifically for ice, the studs are basically like tiny nails sticking out of the tread all around. I’m in San Diego, so I would never have an opportunity to try them out, but I’m curious how well they work for others.

    • Executioner February 1, 2013, 5:22 pm

      I have used studded bicycle tires for commuting during a number of New Hampshire winters. They are a huge improvement over regular bicycle tires, but they aren’t perfect. They work a lot better on a flat icy surface (something like an ice skating rink or a frozen pond) than they do over an icy surface with a lot of variability to it (like when slushy snow gets a lot of footprints and then freezes solid again). Also, the studs work on ice, but do next to nothing for snow. For that you have to rely on your tire tread.

      In areas without much traffic, I feel comfortable with the studded tires. But if there is a lot of automobile traffic, and especially if the road is narrow (which gets narrower because of the snow banks plowed off to the sides of it) it’s a lot safer to walk. It really depends on the situation.

    • Sister X February 4, 2013, 11:18 am

      I have not tried studded tires. My bike has hybrid tires on it and I’d have to either do a lot of modifications to my bike to fit bigger/studded tires on it or buy a new bike entirely. If my route to work was flat I’d keep biking, but I have to go up a rather steep hill so I walk it. My husband bikes all winter, though, and he uses a regular mountain bike. A lot of people have bought bikes with super-large tires meant specifically for biking through snow and on ice, but they’re several thousand dollars and that’s a bit pricey when I can walk for free.
      I also just meant that I’m very injury-prone with sports. To the point that after my husband and I got engaged one of my good friends told me, “Just watch, you’re going to break a bone a month before the wedding.” Five weeks before the wedding, I broke my nose playing softball! So I’m trying to avoid any more hospital trips for a while. They’re expensive.

      • Yukon Marianne May 23, 2014, 9:33 pm

        I made my own studded tires with metal screws, super easy (but use a drill, I hand screwed them in and cranked my neck over it!) and cheap to do. And the traction is amazing! Tutorials are online, definitely line your tire with Teflon tape or a busted tube and you’re laughing. Especially cheap if you can salvage bike tires from and old or crappy junker.

  • nicoleandmaggie February 1, 2013, 4:44 pm

    I used to wear long-underwear under my clothes in the winter growing up in the Midwest (and snow suits over them). Now I live in the South instead. Much preferred! (Except for summer, of course.)

  • KP February 1, 2013, 4:48 pm

    I’ve seen lots of walkers recently decked out in lights. Headlamp, and MEC turtle lights hanging off them, white in front, and flashing red in the back just like bikers are required to do after dark. I love them – although they look a bit like a christmas tree!

    There seems to be a driver attititude that if it’s too cold/dark for them to walk then of course NO ONE is out walking, and I don’t even have to look for pedestrians… grr!

  • Ross February 1, 2013, 5:32 pm

    I’m sad to admit, I gave up and drove one time this winter when it was -15 degrees. Looks like I need to stop being a pansy and invest in a face mask. That’s for the helpful tips!

  • bluprint February 1, 2013, 5:38 pm

    I haven’t finished the article, but just got to “long underwear” and had to comment.

    I’m wearing some right now. And not even because my family is all super-frugal with the heat in winter. I wear long underwear many days. They are very comfortable on my skin. They keep me warm, really warm compared to none at all. Right now I’m wearing jeans and a T-shirt, but still the long underwear pants.

    The utility can’t be understated. AND, it has to get QUITE warm in the day before they start to be become uncomfortable, so even on days when its cold in the morning but maybe 60’s in the afternoon, I’ll still wear them. Comfort! Comfort! Comfort!

  • My Financial Independence Journey February 1, 2013, 5:56 pm

    I will wear sweatpants and long sleeve shirts around the apartment in winter. But after one extra layer, the heat goes on. I dislike being excessively bundled up in clothes. One time I had an apartment with heat included in the rent and every day in winter was shorts and t-shirt day.

    Generally winter and I do not agree, so I spend the entire season indoors as much as possible. I’ve tried winter sports and all kinds of other things, but I’ve come to the conclusion that I am simply not meant to live in colder climates. When/if I ever retire, I’m going to be a snowbird.

    • Kenoryn February 2, 2013, 4:11 pm

      I hate being really bundled up too, but I find long johns among the least intrusive things. I barely notice wearing them under pants.

      When I was in university I had a housemate who was from Antigua. He hated wearing long-sleeved shirts – he said he couldn’t stand the feeling of having something on his arms. But he was always cold (of course). He was so excited when we got him a pair of long underwear for his birthday, and he was blown away when he noticed my housemate was wearing two pairs of socks. (“That’s BRILLIANT!”)

  • Kit, USA February 1, 2013, 6:27 pm

    Yeah to warm clothes. I live in PNW just below Canada:
    Smart wool socks, they are the best.
    Fleece pants
    Long sleeve jersey shirt (sits close to skin, keeps in heat)
    Fleece vest – have finally acclimated to PNW so don’t need sleeves except if sustained below freezing outdoors
    Heat during day – 67 max
    Finally got husband to wear t-shirt AND fleece pull over – combo of two keeps in body heat.
    Heat at night – 64 max – cycles less often.
    For outdoors, add boots/heavy shoes, parka with hood (we have cold rain), gloves/mittens, scarf if windy for face and neck.
    I hope we eventually move to a warmer climate though :)

    Sister X – you are a tough cookie – I mean that with all respect.

    • Sister X February 4, 2013, 11:21 am

      My parents live in Seattle and when I visited them over the holidays I was reminded just how miserable the wet cold can be in the winter. I was so cold there! At least here with the dry cold you can make yourself comfortable. When it’s wet you’re constantly losing heat. Blech. So you have my respect too.

  • Dan Knox February 1, 2013, 6:30 pm

    Great article, although as I am sitting shirtless in the middle of a heatwave I will probably have to shelve it for a few months! I remember that we had some freak snow in my city a couple of years back; I don’t drive so I had to follow most of these tips. My jacket has a removable fleece lining which proved a god-send.

  • Mark February 1, 2013, 6:33 pm

    I need to finish reading the article, but since biking posts are some of my favorite mustachian posts, I want to say, I just got back from biking to the library, bank, and grocery store. I did about 5 miles total and the temperature is about 25. It’s not a completely bone-chilling temperature, but people looked at me like I was crazy. Meanwhile, with the right clothes, I was actually too warm (I guess those were the wrong clothes?)

    And I have a problem with one line in the article
    “Your outside clothes will carry the cold with you, whereas clothes from your closet have been in your warm house all day.”
    Why is the house warm all day when you aren’t in it? :P
    I’ll assume it’s warm enough for the pipes not to freeze.

    • Sister X February 4, 2013, 11:24 am

      Warm enough for the pipes not to freeze, the pets not to freeze, and because my husband and I have different schedules at the moment. :) Also, my fleece pajama bottoms seem to feel warm no matter what the temperature in the house is.

  • Jane Savers @ The Money Puzzle February 1, 2013, 6:57 pm

    I was afraid to click on the post “The Oil Well You Can Keep In Your Pants”. I thought it might be X rated and blocked by my Google safe search.

  • Chris February 1, 2013, 7:58 pm

    We happen to be up in the Great White North of Alaska this week and one of the first things I packed was my long underwear. I prefer the lightweight tech fabric that wicks and dries easily. Makes all the difference when going outside!

  • Jeremy Doolin February 1, 2013, 8:21 pm

    Just another heads up on the location of that radio station. It’s in WEST Virginia. :-)

  • Mama Minou February 1, 2013, 8:41 pm

    I found a merino wool sweater for a couple of dollars at a thrift shop this fall. Loved it–soo warm–and was very sad when it was inadvertently thrown in the dryer and shrank. However, I cut the arms off to make 80’s style below -knee legwarmers, and the body off to make an extremely warm and stretchy circle scarf/cowl/hoodie. I recommend reusing your old shrunken sweaters for winter warmth.

    • homehandymum February 11, 2014, 1:48 pm

      Genius idea to reuse the arms off a wrecked merino sweater. I am wearing one right now that has got holes all over the body segment. Too many to darn. As I pulled it on this morning I was dreading the upcoming expense of replacing it and wondering what I could do to salvage anything from it.

      Leg warmers. Excellent :)

  • Ruth February 1, 2013, 10:11 pm

    I walk to work and swear by earmuffs. Hats make me overheat, but earmuffs are perfect for keeping those exposed ears warm while letting your head breathe. I use the same ones I wore as a kid in the 80s–found them at my parents’ house.

  • Cheryl February 1, 2013, 11:31 pm

    This certainly puts my complaining about winter into perspective – I wear thermals for about 6 months and the coldest we get is around 6C/43F during the day and maybe -5C/23F a few times overnight.

    Is central heating standard in the US? I can see where you’d want to keep the pipes from freezing and keep the house from getting too cold but running a heater all night is (pardon the pun) a foreign concept.

    We have a reverse cycle aircon that heats the loungeroom at night/on really cold days but the bedrooms tend to stay about 12C/54F regardless. Is that similar or do most people heat the whole house?

    • IAmNotABartender July 31, 2015, 11:24 am

      Typically the whole house, at least for houses with forced-air heating. Or the whole floor if you have separate zones.
      Not sure about other types of heating, as I’m only familiar with forced air.

  • Derek R February 2, 2013, 12:49 am

    There is a good old Scottish proverb “Ne’er cast a cloot till May be oot” which gives exactly this advice. I still follow it in Calgary and cope quite happily with waiting for a bus in temperatures as low as -10F (-23C).

  • Mrs EconoWiser February 2, 2013, 1:09 am

    We have thermo underwear (there are really cheap but good ones in stores here) but in The Netherlands there’s no need to wear them that often. They’re great indeed! We also have those ice cleats and I even used them to go out running in the snow. We have given our parents these things as well to prevent them from falling and hurting themselves. Sometimes I am a bit of a wussypants when it comes to biking in the dark when it’s raining or snowing or just really damn cold. After having read this article (R.E.S.P.E.C.T. for Sister X!) I’ll get my but up on that saddle in the dark more often. I am curious about the handlebar mittens product and I’ll keep my eyes open for it. And thanks for the philosophy behind the scarf in front of the mouth trick. All in all, a very useful article. Thanks!

    • perthcyclist February 3, 2013, 9:15 pm

      They are called ‘pogies’ in some places, fatbikes.com sells some

      • Joggernot April 10, 2014, 5:30 am

        If you ride a small displacement scooter/motorcycle look for Hippo Hands. Excellent even at speed.

  • A pair of blue eyes February 2, 2013, 1:10 am

    I discovered merino wool underwear this winter – so toasty!!

  • catalana February 2, 2013, 4:50 am

    Okay, here is a challenge for MMM, and any other reader who wants to join in too. Put a timer on your thermostat and turn off the heating overnight! It always astonishes me that people heat their houses when they are tucked up toasty warm in bed.

    We have similar temperatures throughout the year to Boulder, and I NEVER leave the heater running overnight. (Okay, never deliberately). We also do not heat the house while we are out during the day ….. one of the few benefits of a job.

    We have a timer on the thermostat, and run the heating for 1.5 hours in the morning so we can face getting out of bed. I don’t know what temperature the house drops to during the night, but it was about 30 degrees fahrenheit here last night.

    I cannot believe I am more badass at something than MMM – or do we just insulate houses better here in the UK? (serious question, if anyone knows the answer).

    • Cas February 2, 2013, 5:59 am

      I don’t know the math on this, but I know that depending on how much the temperature has dropped overnight, if your furnace has to run a significant amount of time to heat it back up in the morning to a more comfortable temperature, you are not saving any money. I thought I heard 3 degrees Celsius is the maximum difference you should have?
      While it was a balmy -35 to -40 C last week here in Ottawa, Canada last week, I found that I was fine outside for 15 minute periods of standing still. I had on my long underwear, snowpants, Bogs, down filled coat, scarf, hat and gloves. People walked by and said, “You must be cold”. Actually, I was almost too warm :)

      • Mr. Money Mustache February 2, 2013, 8:42 am

        That old “furnace has to run a long time to warm back up” idea is just an urban legend that gets spread by non-engineers :-).

        Every second your house spends cooler than it would otherwise be, reduces your heat loss and saves you money. Even if you theoretically set your furnace to 34F or 1 degree celsius, the house temperature drops to this level, and then it takes several hours to warm it back up the next day, you’ve saved much more energy than setting it to, say, 15C overnight.

        (this is just a theoretical example, since really we need to watch out for freezing pipes, but it is to make the point: turn things off, including your car, regardless of how short the time of non-use is).

        • A pair of blue eyes February 3, 2013, 7:05 am

          Here is a link to the Energy Saving Trusts guide to ‘myth busting’ concerning things like turning heating off and only using when needed:


        • Phil February 12, 2013, 10:26 am

          This is usually true, but I think there are still some heat pumps that are designed to activate the resistance heater if there is a large difference between the current temperature and set-point. I keep my heat at 62 daytime, 58 at night for bedrooms, and 50 in unoccupied areas.

    • A pair of blue eyes February 2, 2013, 5:59 am

      I am also in the UK and we do not heat our house at night unless the temperatures are below freezing (do not want pipes to burst – even then only leave it on the frost setting). We only have the thermostat on 15 degrees celcius when we have it on for an hour when we get up and two hours when the kids get back from school. Otherwise we put on jumpers or light up the woodstove

      • Ironny November 30, 2013, 3:18 am

        I am also in the UK (London) and live in a fairly new ground floor apartment and last winter, we didn’t turn on the heating at all. I heard somewhere that the government has in the past 5 years or so become more strict on building regulations including the energy saving component and the insulation is therefore better. New buildings have energy saving ratings from A-E and our place is I guess a B. Its not so warm as to be walking around in shorts and t-shirt, but it’s enough to just wear long sleeves and long trousers and socks. It’s another story when going outside though! The wet cold is the killer! It just gets into your bones and makes 15C feel like -10C. And I’ve been there, used to live in -20C temperatures and it wasn’t that bad!

    • the jaq February 2, 2013, 6:07 am

      You probably insulate houses better in the UK. If you have extensive masonry you may also have more thermal inertia, both help you ride out the night. Also, if you live in something like a row house, you’ll add a load to your neighbor’s furnace. Also, it looks like its much warmer throughout most of the UK during the winter than in Boulder, especially with respect to the night time lows. From my brief glance at the almanac data, your winter lows look approximately 10 to 20F warmer than Boulder.

      • Gerard February 2, 2013, 1:59 pm

        Based on my experience, people in the UK definitely don’t insulate their houses better than in North America. I think double-glazed windows are a fairly new phenomenon over there.

        • woodnclay February 2, 2013, 3:13 pm

          Rumour has it that double glazing was invented in Scotland (UK) in Victorian times!

          • Gerard February 3, 2013, 7:14 am

            I guess they’re just waiting to make sure it’s a good idea before adopting it?

            • woodnclay February 3, 2013, 10:21 am

              This is an interesting point. I believe double glazing has been a legal requirement (for UK new builds) since 1976, probably in common with many other places. Much of the UK’s housing stock is old and so is/was generally single glazed. For anyone interested in improving the energy efficiency of their older home it’s a question of what makes financial sense.

              Sometimes preservation of the character of old buildings is more important.

              Sometimes replacing single glazing with double glazing isn’t worthwhile, in energy-saving or financial terms.

              In the end thermal underwear may be the best answer!

            • Jamesqf February 3, 2013, 8:24 pm

              From what I read (and have seen), retrofitted double glazing is fairly common in Britain, but there is a sort of architectural snobbery that causes a certain type of Briton to deride it.

    • Sarah February 11, 2013, 6:59 am

      I agree, I hate having the heat on at night. Granted I live in Texas, so I only have the heat on at all during a couple weeks in January (I keep it set to 60). Even so with two adults and two dogs, my bedroom gets plenty warm. It’s been dropping into the 40’s at night here, and I’ve been sleeping with the windows open and a fan on for two weeks.

    • Eldred January 7, 2016, 9:47 am

      I realize this is an old post, but even though I have a programmable thermostat, I only drop the temp to about 66 at night(64 if I’m feeling adventurous). I’ve had it lower, but felt frozen if I had to get up in the middle of the night.

  • Joe @ Retire By 40 February 2, 2013, 5:42 am

    We keep our temp at 67 in the day time and turn off the heater at nigh (65.) Our climate is temperate so the heating doesn’t cost us too much.
    However, I do have a secret weapon – a Kotatsu table!
    Every household in Japan has one and it keeps your personal space warm.

    Here is how to build one. Northern Americanos don’t like this for some reason though…

    • Cheryl February 2, 2013, 6:39 am

      That’s a pretty awesome idea – I have a portable electric blanket that gives a similar effect but a table would be more useful, plus fit more people.

  • the jaq February 2, 2013, 5:43 am

    I cycle year round in Minneapolis and I’ve been experimenting with layers for about 5 years. I now wear a synthetic shirt and change shirts at my destination. I wear dollar store mittens and a cool weather bike jacket below 50F. Below 40F I add a light wool cap. Below 20F, I use fleece long underwear, I slip on dollar store gloves below my mittens, add some cheap winter boots and an extra set of socks. At 10F I will use a synthetic long underwear shirt instead of a synthetic t shirt and a Gortex Balaclava. Depending on distance and effort I usually have to shed part of my 20F below costume due to overheating.

    My costume costs about $120 and its between 4 and 10 years old. None of the core parts really show any wear, but I do destroy mittens and gloves almost annually and have reoccurring cost of about $7 every 2 years.

    My costume is lacking good rain gear. I usually just throw on cheap rubber pants, but I pay the price for lack of breath-ability. I bring extra shoes and socks. However, that said, I encounter troublesome rain so rarely on my 5000 mi/year that its never been worth it for me to get into the fancy rain fabrics. It’s always struck me as strange how infrequently it rains during my commute times.

    I enjoy wearing the fleece long underwear for about 6 to 8 weeks a year, but they do limit my pants selection. I usually balance them by not using winter clothes for my upper. If I add snowboard pants, I sweat like a hog even at -30F just walking around.

    We have a complicated heating schedule in the home ranging from 54 to 64. It turns out with some aggressive basement isolation, 54 is too low; we get a frozen drainpipe at T_ambient < – 20F. Other than that, I'm usually comfortable without dressing up in the house, but anything more aggressive would be an epic battle with both my SO and the temperature gradients in my poorly insulated home. I take temperature measurements all over with a permanent 1-wire network I assembled from the phone lines. At some point I'll integrate this into the a custom thermostat. However; the super low price of gas and my super tiny house make thermal improvements that might result from this data not very cost effective.

  • Melissa February 2, 2013, 7:15 am

    I’ve been known to wear a scarf around my neck all day. For me, keeping my neck warm pretty much = comfort. In Iowa, we run the heat 24/7 from mid-November thru March or April. We have automatic thermostats so the temperature is set for daytime temp/night temp and weekend temp and the heat cycles as needed. We have had an extremely windy winter with windchills in the teens (some days are below zero temp or windchill). Windy days cause the heat to run more. Thankfully we have natural gas heat, which is a little less costly. Our full winter gas cost is usually around $400. We also use gas for cooking and the tankless water heater. We set temps low–everyone wears layers and covers with a blanket if they’re sitting down. I tend to wear my fleece robe over my clothes–nice and warm. We had friends years ago who said they couldn’t survive without their heat set at 72. These were young people! And they wore t-shirts around all winter! We thought it was crazy and wasteful!!

    We cross country ski and hike in the winter, and for us it’s all about layers (no cotton) and warm hands/feet/ears. We tend to unzip and remove layers as we warm up exercising. And yes, a big thumbs up to Smartwool socks. They are warm and last forever (I’ve had 2 prs for 10 yrs with little sign of wear). My husband is a former racing cyclist, so is used to biking in any weather. He thinks it’s sad that kids are now riding around on motorized scooters, tiny cars, etc. Our older boy walks or rides his bike in all weather. Our 3 yr old will learn the same!

  • Justin@TheFrugalPath February 2, 2013, 7:32 am

    I completely forgot about long underwear. They definitely work though. I wore them in the winter as a child and never got hot. I’m going to have to think about getting a few pairs for me and the Mrs. Thanks for reminding me of something that I had forgotten about.

  • Posted On February 2, 2013, 7:59 am

    Growing up in the 70’s my folks kept the home’s thermostat at 62F in the winter. Mom always said,

    “If you are cold, put on a sweater. It’s paid for.”

    Versus fuel for the furnace, which is not yet paid for. I still live with that adage today, perhaps to my wife’s chagrin…

    BTW, that’s “put on a jumper” for you folks down under. :-)

  • Mark February 2, 2013, 8:40 am

    Great article! I live in Massachusetts where we had a pretty solid cold snap last week…like your hair freezing by the time you walked 40 feet to your car, kind of cold. But I’ve been a big wussy pants and haven’t been biking because of the cold, wind, and snow on the ground (I only have a road bike). But I’m inspired, next week I’m going to bike to work for the first time! I just moved WAY closer to my job (used to commute 35 miles each way, now its about 6), so I’m going grow my mustachian muscles and get on it. Can’t wait.

    We currently have the thermostat in our apartment set to 46F, while the actual temperature in here is about 52F (we live on the second floor and get some residual heat from the unit downstairs, score!). MMM is right, your body definitely adapts. Our gas bill for January? A whopping $25.67. You just dress for it. I do a lot of winter hiking/mountaineering/ice climbing up in New Hampshire, so I’ve found some clothing that really gets the job done. For long underwear, I use EMS’s powerstretch tights…they’re definitely expensive, but they’re a technical fabric (wicking, quick drying, etc.) and I don’t think I’ve ever experienced cold while wearing them. Also, I live in my SmartWool Mountaineer socks. The warmest, most hardcore socks I’ve ever found. These items (+many more) have kept me warm on top of Mt. Washington w/ temps well below zero and 80+ mph winds, wind chills 40-50 below. They work! Again, awesome article, thanks for the inspiration!

    • Mr. Money Mustache February 2, 2013, 8:56 am

      Wow, this article is really bringing out the badasses. Two years ago when I started this blog, I always used to get a few people showing up and saying things like,

      “WHAT!? A house under 72F? Well.. FINE, if you want to live like a PEASANT!! I’m personally going to ENJOY MY LIFE while I’m still young enough to live it, thank you very much!11!!!1”

      Are there any complainers left in the entire readership, or have we scared them all away? Nice Job, Mustachians.

      I heard a bit of NPR radio yesterday: they reported that US retailers had a “disappointing” holiday shopping season, because even though incomes were up across the board, Americans (on average) used that income to increase their savings rate rather than to spend more. Apparently it is rare or unprecedented for holiday shopping not to rise in a year with rising incomes.

      Again, Nice Job Mustachians.

      • Posted On February 2, 2013, 9:25 am

        Maybe you didn’t scare them away, maybe you converted them!!!

      • DaveT February 2, 2013, 12:21 pm

        Hah, I kind of miss the occasional complainypants comment. It had the effect of making me feel more badass! Now I feel the need to up my game much to the wife’s chagrin.

      • Purple February 2, 2013, 12:30 pm

        Wouldn’t that be awesome if there was a permanent downward move in how much everyone wanted to purchase? I am convinced that the ‘Hoarders’ like TV shows have been a bit of a punch in the face for many.

        I think it would be a public good to have ever-changing, exciting, shocking versions of Hoarders-like shows providing a mass punch-in-the-face (of course, served up with a good dose of smugness for the viewer because their problem is not as big).

        Also, I love Sister X’s contribution to this post. Thank you.

        In particular, her comments on safety and women feeling the cold more quickly resonate strongly with me. Definitely both of these factors can be badass inhibitors.

        My key weapon against cold is fleece-lined cargo pants which I adore with passion. I will certainly do silk long johns too but prefer the simplicity of a single uber-warm item.

        • Sister X February 27, 2013, 3:17 pm

          My husband scolded me just last night (after finally reading this) that I hadn’t mentioned lined pants. I don’t wear mine so often (mostly only when it’s -40 to -50 because otherwise I get too hot inside) but his I have to sneak into the wash while he’s sleeping, otherwise he’s wearing them.

      • Purple February 2, 2013, 12:39 pm

      • catalana February 2, 2013, 12:54 pm

        Don’t panic. I might turn the heater off at night, but to compensate I wear cashmere socks ;)

      • bayrider February 3, 2013, 6:10 pm

        OK, I’ll bite, I like to keep my rural house here in Northern CA around 72-75 degrees in winter. I really don’t enjoy sitting around in excess clothing; socks, jeans and t-shirts are my staple outfit. I like to be relaxed in my home and at age 58 it’s more difficult to be comfortable in low temps unless you’re moving. I do enjoy the cold when I go night skiing every week at Mt Shasta, at a Mustachian price of $20 for 6 hours.

        But I heat primarily with woodstove and oak that I split by hand in the summers, just use the propane furnace to bring the temp up in the mornings. This past year I had to take down a large oak and now have 4 cords of wood seasoning out back, that will last at least 2 winters. I got a lot of great workouts out of that tree, I felt pretty badass actually. Nothing beats wood fired radiant heat for deep comfort.

    • Christy February 2, 2013, 9:44 am

      While I live in a milder climate than you (Willamette Valley in Oregon), I too keep the heat turned down during the day (60 degrees) and turned off at night. Years ago I determined that I was better off to spend money on a few pieces of efficient clothing such as smartwool socks, capiliene long underwear, and a floor length fleece robe.

  • Meadow Lark February 2, 2013, 9:13 am

    I wear tights under my pants when I ride to work. I am a nurse so I am running around too much at work to keep them on all day – much too hot in my hospital. We also sleep with hats on usually. That doesn’t bother me but I HATE wearing socks to bed. Makes me feel claustrophobic. We also have a heated mattress pad that I love. After seeing a tube of fabric at REI for $20 that you can use as a hat, cowl, balaclava, I made one. Spent $21 and made 9 of them. Could have been much cheaper. The one I patterned off is http://www.buffusa.com . 1 seam.

    • Mark February 5, 2013, 2:06 pm

      I too hated wearing socks to bed … till I started forcing myself to do it a few weeks back. It feels normal now.

      I have worn a hat the past few months, it’s actually quite comfortable!

  • rod February 2, 2013, 10:22 am

    I. Somewhat overdress all winter here in illinois. I am in and out of buildings, and outside a lot. I agree on the long johns or underwear, I use them every day after thanksgiving. Wool socks and hats and good gloves, those goofy hard hat liners are cheap and so good for heat. plus they help keep my earbuds in. I seldom need a coat, a fleece or hoodie does it. Sister x is so right on her writings, thanks to her! If I get too cozy near the fireplace, I Will get cold outside. I enjoy winter and save the fireplace and cuddling for when I know I’m in for the rest of the day. We keep our heat low, low, and the opposite in summer. Acclimation is the key, my goal is to not shiver or sweat much but be out there living life. Thanks for the article!!

  • Sarah February 2, 2013, 10:40 am

    I was all proud of my “3-wool system” that I used for biking yesterday in Chicago’s 17 F weather, until I read the description of walking in Fairbanks. Well, I’ll tell you about it anyway. First a technical long-sleeve long-underwear top (got this over 10 years ago). Then a thin, snug cashmere sweater (thrift shop). Then a slightly thicker, slightly looser cashmere turtleneck (also thrift shop). Then a wool lumberjack-style man’s shirt that’s too large for me and I just keep around for uses like this. So that’s the 3-wool. Then my safety-yellow water-proof cycling jacket. With all other parts similarly layered, I was quite comfortable.

    I’d love to know if Sister X is on ravelry so I can check out her projects!!

    • Sister X February 4, 2013, 11:55 am

      If it works for you, you should be proud of it! Awesome thrift store finds.
      I was not trying to out-badass anyone (I want to punch people in the face when they say, “Oh, I could never do that….”) but maybe provide a little inspiration since, seriously, if I can do this, anyone can do this.
      I am not on ravelry, unfortunately. I do browse their stuff, however, and get lots of inspiration from Pinterest.
      The socks I made are from one of the Stitch ‘N Bitch books.

  • J February 2, 2013, 11:52 am

    I also find lined jeans useful in the winter. L.L. Bean sells them lined in either fleece or flannel, your choice.

  • DaveT February 2, 2013, 12:18 pm

    Another weapon for indoor comfort is slippers! Get yourself a decent pair that will last a while (I’ve had mine for about ten years). When I get home, the shoes come off and the slippers go on. They are the first thing I put on when I get out of bed. We have a lot of tile in the house and that’s where I notice the cold in the morning since our thermostat drops down at night. I’m hard pressed to require more than 65 degrees, my wife prefers 70 so we have a compromise at 68.

  • brianA February 2, 2013, 5:42 pm

    54 F for nights and 62 F for days. Syracuse, N.Y.

  • Yuriy February 3, 2013, 2:16 pm

    What about the heat in other people’s homes and establishments? I could very well wear long underwear and jeans at home and hop on a bike to go somewhere, but at the destination I’ll quickly get uncomfortably warm.

  • JaneMD February 3, 2013, 3:03 pm

    We live somewhere in the 66-68 range. We won’t be going any lower though because of our 1 and 2 year old. It is pretty difficult to get them to stay still for just their diaper changes in their normal long pants and sweaters without adding additional layers. At one point I did try to dress the youngest like a sherpa – hat, coat, two pairs of pants to sleep, but it was a large FAIL. (All of the above ended up very wet and dirty = wet dirty miserable Jane and little child – and another load of laundry)

  • perthcyclist February 3, 2013, 6:38 pm

    Great guest article MMM. People here are scared to cycle when it rains because they are so used to the fine weather. Strangely enough people are out cycling when it’s 38 degs C (100F) but a few spatters of rain and all bets are off. Crazy.

  • Carl February 3, 2013, 6:54 pm

    I use the wood stove for my heat. With 10 acres in West Virginia the blowdowns provide plenty of wood. And like they say, wood warms you twice, once getting it and again burning it.

    I like it to be cool at night (sleep better), but it’s not always condusive to getting out of bed in the morning.

  • Fuzz February 3, 2013, 9:44 pm

    Maybe this goes without saying, but I find that I need to pay a little more attention to what I’m eating since I moved to a cold locale. I moved to Jackson, Wyoming (-27F biking to work!! But it’s only 9 blocks…), and I find that if I’m late on a meal by a couple hours, I just can’t keep myself warm outside or in a cold room.

    Sister X talked about the staying alert piece of living in a cold weather environment. For me, I find that planning to make sure I have an extra snack or two during the day, and making sure I eat a big meal before going out, is as important as the right clothes. If I don’t do both, I’m cold and on my way to a “hangry” meltdown.

    Also, I’m so stealing that oil well in my pants line. Long live wool long underwear!

    • Sister X February 4, 2013, 12:00 pm

      YES! Excellent point. There was so much extra info I could have put in here but this would have been ten pages long. (It was at least 4 as a Word file.) I definitely notice myself needing more food during the winter too. It was -50 for a while here about two weeks ago and my husband and I both noticed ourselves craving things like peanut butter and whole milk. Lots of calories and protein. :) I sometimes think that my lunches during the winter are a bit crazy, too, as I’m constantly wondering, “Did I bring enough food?”

  • leftbucket February 3, 2013, 10:30 pm

    A variation on the long john theme which I’ve been using for years is flannel pajamas under your clothes.

    I put them on in November and keep them on through March.

    I’m in Virginia though, and the winters are tame compared to most of the stuff you all are talking about.

    But if it’s 15 degrees F one day and 75 two days later (just happened)…you’re okay either way. They seem to breathe much better than the long johns.


  • Joshua Spodek February 4, 2013, 12:30 am

    Geek points to the guest writer for choosing -40 degrees so not having to specify the temperature scale.

    I still prefer my two commuting methods to biking and cycling, especially in cold weather — working at home and taking the subway.

    I’m surprised no one mentions another reason not to heat more than necessary. Saving money is great, but I also avoid using energy unnecessarily for the same reason I don’t litter — it pollutes. Where do people think acid rain, mercury, and the health problems that result come from?

  • scooter February 4, 2013, 9:18 am

    Another secret weapon, appropriate to my freezing-but-not- terrifying midwestern winters (-40?! Holy Crap.):

    Leg warmers.

    I have been made fun of, but hear me out! They’re amazingly warm, you can pull them up over your knees (UNDER the pants) while getting to work, then push them down or remove them entirely when you get there, without spending 20 minutes stripping down and re-dressing. Especially nice if you’re going to a party or doing errands instead of going to work, or if, like me and leftbucket from Virginia, your weather has 40 degree temperature swings in a single day.

    They also avoid the discomfort factor of wearing two pair of pants while cycling, and cover that uncomfortable gap between socks and pants.

    Now, if I could just figure out how to cover my eyes while winter-cycling, without looking like a complete moron. Still, better looking like a moron than breaking icicles off my eyelashes (yes, I’ve actually done this).

    • Sister X February 4, 2013, 12:06 pm

      Leg warmers are definitely nice. I tend to go with long socks and take off the extra pair along with my boots when I get to work. (I have a pair of office shoes in my desk, like a lot of non-car commuters.)
      As for covering your eyes, a lot of people here tend to use ski goggles. But maybe that falls under your definition of looking like a moron? (Also, don’t break the ice off your eyelashes–close your eyes and put one bare finger over each until the ice melts. It only takes a second or two.)
      As for looking like a moron, just remember: you’re only looking like an idiot in front of suckers who are driving. Who’s the real moron? I have definitely made a fool of myself but I can always remind myself that at least I’m not the fool who’s driving.

      • Doug February 8, 2013, 11:29 am

        Consistent with my thoughts also. Yes, to the ill informed and downright foolish I may look like an idiot bundled up while walking around outside in cold weather. However, consider that my car is sitting parked at home burning no petrol, it’s not being subject to an outrageous amount of wear from being repeatedly started up and shut down in cold weather, and as an added bonus I’m getting exercise for FREE rather than paying money to drive to a gym and run on a treadmill. When you take that into account, I feel like a genius who could easily be an honourary member of MENSA!

  • JZ February 4, 2013, 9:23 am

    It’s a somewhat spendy down payment, but carbide-studded bicycle tires are available and give better traction than spiked boots.

  • Stephanie Stache February 4, 2013, 10:06 am

    I love our heated mattress pad and I am loving my new flannel lined jeans, which were only $10 more than the non-lined. I wear them every day, and I like not having to worry about putting on another layer.

  • Susan February 4, 2013, 11:35 am

    This was fascinating! I’ll admit it, 15 years in Los Angeles has weakened me. But we’re considering a move to Portland (thanks to motivation from reading MMM), and visited in November when it was around 40F. Since we planned on doing a ton of walking and I knew the temp would be a shock to my system, I tried some long underwear with something called “heattech” from Uniqlo. It worked wonders, and actually made me too warm. Just fancier long underwear, but thin and comfortable, and not too expensive.


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